A couple of weeks ago, I went up to Saratoga Springs for the Travers Stakes. For those of you who are not degenerate horse gamblers (like me) you might not know that the Travers is the oldest Grade 1 stakes race in the country. You may also not know that the sleepy hamlet of Saratoga Springs lives for the five weeks the NYRA runs the ponies there.
Now I bet you’re saying to yourself, what the hell does this have to do with the law? Funny you should ask, because this is a really a story about failure to contract properly. See, when you have a small town, you have limited numbers of things people might need when 100,000 of them arrive. Cabs, for example. And like all cartels, abuses tend to crop up at the intersection of scarcity and want. So we were heading into town from our hotel, and our cabbie suggested that to avoid trouble from the police for having a number of people in the cab, we settle our bill prior to be dropped off. My friend in the passenger seat asked how much that was going to be. The reply was $80, $10 per person. Bear in mind that this was for a 7 to 8 minute cab ride. Since a price had not been negotiated before hand, tempers flared (alcohol may have been involved), and things culminated with the cabbie trying to leave us at a closed mini-golf course, and another friend of mine shouting “show me your medallion, Mother F’er!” Eventually, it was determined that the perfect was the enemy of the good, and that we would rather be in bar than trying to figure out how to get away from a mini-golf course on the side of a highway. A new price was negotiated and we were on our way.
Now despite the fact that I wanted to kill the cabbie, I have to say that I think he was right. Because the vehicle was not a cab, but a livery cab. Livery cabs don’t work on a meter, but rather on a fixed price between points. As I discovered when I called to file a complaint, the city of Saratoga Springs allows livery drivers to charge confiscatory rates during the meet because when else are you going to soak the tourists? Not that we could have avoided the price if we had known this before we got in, but we had entered into a contract when we got in, and at that point we were stuck. The lesson here is that you have to come to appropriate contract terms before you haul your drunken carcass into a car. Go baby go!